Monday, August 13, 2018

Don't Like to Encourage Fibbing But . . .

A couple of weeks ago, after attending Coffee with a Cop, Beach Buddy, aka the Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy, dropped me off in front of my apartment complex. I was heading to the front gate when I noticed a twenty-something young man (YM) who seemed to be wandering around aimlessly. I didn’t recognize him as a neighborhood resident. On the other hand, he didn’t look homeless. He approached me as I was about to disappear into the courtyard.
YM: Do you have any spare change for the bus?
Me: Sorry, no. But you could try giving the bus driver a sob story. (Over the years, I’ve seen various scenarios work well hundreds of times.)
YM: I tried that.
Me: Try another bus driver.
Yes, I probably shouldn’t have offered suggestions, but I did. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to fib to an NCTD driver. But it was oppressively warm that day. And I all too well remember waiting for buses in Tucson during July.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Brouhaha At the Carnival

[Note: I confess that this essay is very badly written (and you know it is very badly written when I use two ly adverbs together to describe it). Sadly, over the years, I have downloaded too many freebie e-novels that weren’t written much better than this.]

Talk about being a drama queen; I think I was at my best with this essay. Well, at the time; later, I did top it as a college freshman. Unfortunately, the writing in this is really bad, well, more like terrible. But what the heck, I was seventeen when I wrote it. I’m fairly certain I typed this draft on a manual typewriter. During typing class, when, of course, I should have been practicing whatever lesson we were supposed to practice that day. And I sucked at typing on any form of a manual typewriter. My fingers were too short to reach the keys correctly. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I’ve modified the essay just a tiny bit, but this version contains 99 percent of the original material, minus the typos and weird punctuation, of course. However, I did retain all those strangely structured sentences, the weird word usage, and those awful adverbs—ugh. I’ve also added comments in brackets. Names of all participants have been changed to (hopefully) prevent anyone reading this from figuring out who they really were.

This version isn’t complete; the last page seems to be missing. So this probably was a rough draft. I must have edited the story a bit because I’m sure I showed a “clean copy” to “Jeremy” (a high school boyfriend, more or less, mostly less as it turned out). I made him read a lot of the crazy stuff I wrote. He never told me I was crazy, except the time that “Kate” and I stalked his brother “Roddy” by trailing him down the street for about a half mile one Columbus Day, back in the Mid-Jurassic Period. Oh, wait; it was Roddy who told Jeremy we were crazy. (Sorry, Roddy, we were really bored that day, and you just happened to walk by. We saw an opportunity and we took it.)

Thinking about it now, I wonder how we ever got into this mess. Making that remark wasn’t like “Jenna.”

We We’re Minding Our Own Business When…

Every year, some organization in the next town [Fire Dept.?] sponsors a carnival. I think it goes on for the better part of a week. My four friends and I went to the carnival for three nights in a row. By the third night we felt like veterans [lame usage here].

Passing by a certain bunch of guys we knew, I could sense Roddy and “Max” staring at me behind my back [Yeah, I know, adolescent paranoia.] You’d think I committed a crime. [Huh! Jeremy cheated on me; well, I guess maybe he cheated on both of us. Yeah, he did.] But I wasn’t at the carnival to brood over my personal problems [even though I did anyway]. Thoughts of Roddy’s boyish looking [Well, he was a boy.] younger brother, Jeremy, never wandered far from my mind or my heart. [OMG, I can’t believe I wrote that, but I was sixteen (at the time this brouhaha happened) and thought I was “in luuuve.”]

The five of us decided to split up. Kate, “Cindy”, and I stayed together, while Jenna and “Sally” went off together in another direction. Kate talked Cindy into having a picture taken at the photo booth, so we went over there.

About twenty minutes later, we were standing in front of the photo booth when Sally came racing up to us, trailed closely by Jenna whose appearance had suddenly changed from one of exemplary to that of chaotic. Her long, honey-brown hair [honey brown?], which had been pulled back into a french twist, now looked disheveled and uncombed [redundant]. To me, her appearance relayed the impression that she had just slugged it out with someone. How right I was!

Breathlessly [How’s that for an adverb?], Jenna and Sally had pieced together their little escapade of a few minutes ago. They had been standing in front of the motorcycle exhibition when Sally made some reference to Hoody Guy who was practically the star attraction of that racket. A couple of nights previously, he had made clear his interest in Sally [In other words, he tried to hit on her.].

Although the feeling was NOT mutual, Sally made some remark about him. It was just her bad luck that the two girls standing in front of them didn’t exactly appreciate Sally’s praise of Hoody Guy’s masculine attributes [Whatever the heck they were. Sally may have been impressed, but I wasn’t.] In fact, their dislike was so intense that they started bugging Jenna.

Jenna was wearing a very nice pair of slacks. One of the girls said to her, “So, you think you’ve got hot pants.”

“No,” Jenna said. “I think they’re cool.”

The girl apparently didn’t much like that answer. She had slapped Jenna across the face and started pulling her hair. Sally, completely stunned, had backed off and watched the affair [weird choice of word] from a safe distance. Finally, Jenna got away and she and Sally went looking for the rest of the crew.

As we listened to the details, Kate, Cindy, and I began to feel pangs [another weird choice of word] of revenge surge within us [Oh, the drama---and the insanity.] In a wild moment of madness [That explains it.], we all hollered, “Let’s go get them.” After securing [Oh, puhlezzze!] a description of the two from Jenna and Sally, the five of us courageously set out to finish what Sally had unwillingly started.

Halfway to our destination, a thought suddenly hit me like a bombshell [Yikes!]. Calling our little army [Well, fits in with bombshell.] to an abrupt halt, I asked Jenna to repeat her description of the girls. She did: one blonde, one brunette. Oh, brother, I had seen those two here before. And man, were they ever something. My idea of two typical sluts [is writing sluts politically correct these days?], and how right I was.

Realizing that we weren’t fooling with just anybody, I began to think things over. However, the determination of the others dissolved [weird word again] any fears I might have had at the moment. Chins set firmly [s/b chins firmly set for consistency w/fists phrase] and fists tightly clenched, the five of us continued on in our search for trouble.

We found it, or rather, it found us halfway around the carnival grounds. That’s when we sighted [Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.] our opponents heading in our direction. Personally, I’d rather have sighted a saber-toothed tiger and a dinosaur instead, but that’s life, so they say [really lame sentence, and weird too]. Just about then, I thought life was getting to be pretty crazy and a little dangerous [Got even crazier a couple of weeks later, but that’s another story involving an “open house” event, a minor accident, and a state trooper.].

Our courage began to fail as we previewed [ugh] our opposition. We unanimously decided against violence and continued on our way, ignoring the two. Unfortunately they decided not to be ignored. We all cautioned one another not to get excited [Panic would be a better word here.] as the pair began trailing after us. After all, there were five of us and only two of them.

I walked about five yards ahead of the others, with Kate close behind [We were scared out of our minds at this point.]. Intuition told me there was going to be trouble, and again, how right I was [I seemed to be right a lot]. Making up my mind, I turned to Kate, “I’m going to find a cop.”

“No,” Kate said, “If my mom and dad see this….” [Kate and Jenna’s parents were also at the carnival that night.]

Ignoring Kate’s protest, I raced to the animal [sheep? cows? pigs?] exhibition where I found a rather elderly gentleman who was certainly far from my idea of a cop [I favored State Troopers; they looked good in uniform.] but it apparently suited the person who had the audacity to pin that badge on the man’s shirt. And as long as he was endowed with that shiny symbol of authority, he would do. [Oh, puhlezzze!]

Attempting not to appear too worried [actually too freaked out], I told the officer that two girls were apparently determined to start something with my friends and me. I explained that they had evidently [way too many adverbs in this thingy] singled out one of my friends to push around.

Without any sign of surprise [Happened all the time, I guess.], he followed me almost mechanically to one area of the carnival where a crowd had gathered. Shoving my way through the human mess, I blinked my eyes in disbelief at the sight before me. The Blonde had grabbed Jenna’s long brown hair and, by that means was whirling her around [bad sentence]. Jenna was no match for the girl, who, by her attitude of pugnacity [pugnacious attitude], conveyed to me the impression that she was, most likely, the veteran of several similar disagreements.

I knew that I had to do something. But what? Realization hit me like a rocket [Oh, puhleeze! Yeah, I know redundant expression.] as I turned my shocked gaze and discovered to my horror [No, really?] that Jenna wasn’t the only one being thrown around. Kate, standing stunned on one side of the crowd, was about to be charged by the Brunette, who looked no less friendly [This should either have been less friendly or no more friendly, but whatever.] than her companion.

In the midst of all this excitement, whom did I happen to glance upon standing bewildered among the spectators but Sally and the equally dazed Cindy.

I knew what I had to do. As the Brunette came racing toward Kate, I charged into her with all my strength, and as she retreated in surprise, I yelled in her face with all the audacity within me [sure], “You leave her alone!”

Caught off guard, the Brunette fell back, startled. “What are you butting in for?” she yelled.

Before I had a chance to yell a smart remark in return and before she had the chance to reciprocate the attack, the slightly tardy police officer (or whatever he was), who didn’t seem much interested in the first place, calmly wandered into the circle and broke everything up. The crowd, disappointed because the battle had culminated in the first round [Wonder what the heck that was supposed to mean?], faded away in amusement [ugh].

Hoping against hope that we had seen the last of that pleasant pair, Jenna, Kate, and I rounded up the two non-participants and proceeded to continue our tour of the carnival grounds. This time we stuck together.

About twenty minutes later, while standing before one of the many amusement booths, I learned to our great dismay that fate was against us. When turning around, I noticed the enemy sneaking up behind us. Not rejoicing at this present development, I concluded that I’d just better find that cop again.

I walked away from the booth at a normal pace. Kate came up behind me. “I think they’re going to start something,” she whispered. “I heard one of them say ‘you take this one, and I’ll take that one.’”

The next thing I knew, one of the girls grabbed my coat [Why the heck was I dragging a coat around? It was July.] “Where do you think you’re going?” she demanded.

“I’m going to get a cop,” I said in exactly the tone of voice that I had been addressed.

“And why are you going to get a cop?” the Blonde asked.

“Because,” I retorted, “I don’t like the way you’re treating my friends.”

Apparently, that wasn’t the answer they were looking for, because the next thing I knew I was being slapped across the face. As I realized my true plight, I began to panic. I wanted to run, and then the Blonde smacked me good with her experienced little hand.

Courage renewed, I threw down my sweater [What the heck happened to my coat?] and began kicking wildly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kate shoving her way through the crowd that had gathered.

[Unfortunately, the last page of this story got lost somewhere between the Mid-Jurassic Period and now. However, here’s how it ended: Kate grabbed onto a post and started kicking the Brunette in the stomach. About two minutes later Kate and Jenna’s parents wandered into the scene and broke up the fight. Blonde and Brunette took off, never to be seen again that evening.

A few minutes later, we discussed the situation with two or three guys who began talking to us. They were strangers to us, but they knew the other girls and their reputations. The guys walked around the carnival with us for the remainder of the evening, for protection, I guess. I don’t remember who they were; I (more or less, less as it turned out) had a boyfriend at the time, so I wasn’t interested. At any rate, we didn’t become permanent friends with them, which probably is just as well.]

Monday, June 11, 2018

Just One of Those Things You Always Remember (Updated)

[Note: This post was originally published on November 12, 2012.]

I was fourteen then and in the ninth grade.

Back in the Mid-Jurassic Period, students were allowed to leave the school grounds for lunch. On that particular day, I was walking to the diner with a friend who was in the eighth grade. I’ll call her Lily, but that wasn’t her real name.

We were halfway there when Lily stopped in the middle of the street, grabbed my arm, pulled me closer, and whispered in my ear, “See that guy coming toward us.”

How could I not see that guy coming toward us? He looked nasty—scowl on his face, black leather jacket, tight jeans. The word hood popped into my head.

“That’s [Tough Guy],” Lily said. Although I hadn’t formally been introduced to Tough Guy, I knew some things about him, and they were not good things. He was a person whose reputation preceded him.

“He had to get married,” Lily whispered as he strutted past us. “Now he has to get divorced because he has to get married again.”

Yikes, I thought. “That’s crazy,” I said. “And anyway, maybe you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.”

Actually, Lily sort of heard right. The timing was a little off though. Tough Guy did get divorced within a few months. And he did have to get married again, but that happened about five years later. He married Lily.


I was formally introduced to Tough Guy during my senior year of high school. By that time we had several mutual friends, including my friend Kate.

Lily and Tough Guy eventually divorced. She remarried and moved out of state. Tough Guy never remarried. Maybe he thought two marriages and two divorces were enough.

Sadly, both Lily and Tough Guy died much too young. Lily was a likeable person. Tough Guy, not so likeable most of the time. However, there was an evening when I decided I liked him a little better.

One Friday evening, back in the Late Jurassic Period, I was watching Kate’s children when Tough Guy showed up at her house. I didn’t realize he had been drinking, or I would have told him to go away. With the kids there, I didn’t want to provoke him, so I figured I’d let him stay as long as he behaved.

Yes, he did behave.

I don’t remember what our original conversation was about, but after a while, Tough Guy started talking about the son he had with his first wife. The son, I’ll call him “Wayne,” had been a toddler when he was adopted by his mother’s new husband.

Apparently Wayne, now a teenager, recently had learned that Tough Guy was his biological father. Wayne telephoned Tough Guy and asked him if he was his real dad. Tough Guy told him, “I may be your biological dad, but that man you live with, the one who takes care of you, he’s your real dad.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Of Taxes and Serial Killers

I’ve been busy for the last few months, and unfortunately have neglected my blogs.  So I decided to re-run this post from 2005. Seems appropriate:

Tax time has come and gone for another year.

I was thinking about taxes just before I drifted off to sleep last Wednesday night. Earlier, I had been reading a book about a serial killer who prowled I-5 between Washington State and northern California, killing prostitutes along the way.

I dreamed that I was doing his taxes, and he insisted on claiming mileage. I wouldn’t let him do it because he wasn’t engaged in a legitimate business. We started arguing. That’s when I woke up.

Whew, maybe I should give up reading those kinds of stories just before bedtime.

Yes, I have given up reading those kinds of stories just before bedtime.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Horses, Hooky, and a Hurricane

Note: This is a reprint of a post I originally published in 2011. I have modified it slightly. At the time it was initially published, late Other Half and I were living in Arizona.

My late Other Half was a teenager when the Great New England Hurricane slammed into Hampden County, Massachusetts, in late September 1938. He had ditched school in favor of working at the fairgrounds in West Springfield during the Eastern States Exposition.

He was only fourteen then; however, he had worked on farms during the summer for several years. That experience helped him to get hired for a short-term, 24/7 job at the horse barn. He looked forward to feeding and watering horses much more than he looked forward to sitting in a classroom. And dealing with horses was a whole lot better than dealing with school authorities. Horses didn’t yell at you because you weren’t paying attention in class. Or because you had failed to show up for school again.

“I stayed in the barn most of the time,” he said. And it wasn’t only the bad weather that kept him there. “I didn’t want to go outside a lot because the truant officer might be walking around.” Other Half had more than a nodding acquaintance with that guy. If the technology had been available then, the truant officer most likely would have had Other Half’s mom on speed dial.

Despite the wind and heavy rain, The Powers That Be initially expected to keep the agricultural fair open. However, the Exposition’s organizers revised that expectation when: (a) the roof of one of the buildings went airborne, (b) The Westfield River overflowed and began flooding the fairgrounds, and (c) the police “strongly suggested” that people get the heck out of there and take the animals with them.

Exhibitors with livestock trailers loaded up their animals and headed to safer areas. People without transportation rounded up the remaining horses and cattle and slogged through the storm to higher ground. Other Half was drenched by windswept rain as he led a horse named Scarlett O’Hara across an iron bridge and up to the old Agawam racetrack.

That was an experience he would never forget. And, of course, Other Half never imagined then that his job providing fodder for the horses in 1938 would one day provide a different kind of fodder for this blog post, written in between reading online reports about a hurricane named Irene in 2011.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sunday Dinner in the Twilight Zone

A few nights ago, I dreamed I was at an upscale restaurant celebrating something with several people, none of whom I recognized. The place was so upscale that prices weren’t printed on the menu. Not surprising; however, the meal choices weren’t printed on the menu either.

I woke up at 3:22 a.m. wondering where that dream came from.

I think I’ve figured it out.

That afternoon, a woman posting on an online forum mentioned she had grown up in Connecticut. Maybe my dream was a subconscious flashback to a strange restaurant experience during a family trip to that state sometime in the early 1970s.

One Sunday morning after church, my parents and my dad’s Massachusetts cousins, whom I’ll call “Fred” and “Ethel,” made a spur of the moment decision. They decided to just drop in on the Connecticut cousins without first calling to see if the cousins would be home. Three related families lived close to one another. Dad and Fred figured someone would be home. I had nothing planned, so I went along for the ride.

We knew the cousins would offer us a snack. However, before then, we needed something more substantial than coffee and cake or cookies. We intended to stop for dinner at a Friendly’s restaurant along the way. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find one during our two hour drive through what seemed like an endless trail of small towns.

We also passed several Mom and Pop restaurants, but they were closed. Finally, about three or four miles from our destination, Dad spotted a restaurant that looked open. I’ve forgotten the name of the place; I’ll call it the “Country Café.”

The flashing green OPEN sign in the window looked promising, the dining room did not. The lights were dimed, and we were the only customers in the place.

“Where is everyone?” Ethel asked.

“Maybe someone forgot to turn off the sign and lock the door when they closed yesterday,” I said.

We were about to leave when a woman popped out of the kitchen. The presumed hostess seemed surprised to see customers, but she led us to a table before scurrying back to the kitchen.

Fred and Ethel rolled their eyes. “I think she’s cross eyed or something,” Ethel said.

Mom frowned and looked around. “Well, at least the place seems clean.”

I thought the place seemed creepy. “Maybe we should just leave now.”

Dad vetoed my suggestion. He pointed out that this might be our last chance to get something other than coffee and cake or cookies until we were on our way home.

When the hostess returned, Ethel asked to see a menu. The woman frowned, mumbled something I’ve forgotten, and retreated to the kitchen. A few minutes later she reappeared, trailed by a tall, beefy man whom she introduced as the cook. He asked us what we wanted for dinner.

“Well, what do you have?” I asked. After a brief discussion, we decided on ham steak with mashed potatoes and carrots.

Thirty minutes later, our meals were delivered by another person who apparently had been lurking in the kitchen. We had no complaints about the food. However, the hostess hovered around while we ate. I wondered if she thought we were going to walk out with the silverware. Or maybe one of the employees noticed the out of state license plates on our car and thought we might walk out without paying.

That afternoon, we described our Country Café dining experience to several Connecticut relatives. None of them could place the restaurant, even though it was located within a few miles of their homes. I figured, being retired, they might not get around much, but then . . .

Postscript: Now I wonder if the restaurant possibly was a front for some illegal activity. That dining experience was one I didn’t care to repeat. Sad to say, I did, more or less, almost thirty years later on the other side of the country. And, maybe someday, but not too soon, I will blog about the place I often refer to as the Slug Café.

Monday, June 05, 2017

My Fridge Does the Shimmy Shake

Yes, my fridge does the shimmy shake.
There is a logical reason for that.
The floor in my current apartment is very uneven. I have no idea why. Maybe the ground under the building is sinking. And it seems to be getting worse. A few months ago, I only felt the slope of the floor under my feet. Now I can see it.
Based on my current and past experiences, sloping floors are annoying.
Every time the compressor hums, my refrigerator shimmies closer to the stove. When it gets too close, I shove it back where it belongs.
Once upon a time, in the nineties, we lived in an apartment house that had an uneven floor. I figured that floor sloped because the house had been built on a stone foundation in 1886. I was making a lot of beaded jewelry then. I worked on the kitchen table, and every time I dropped a bead, it rolled under the fridge or stove and was lost forever. Well, until we moved out, and someone had to pull out the fridge and stove to clean behind them.
The cleaning crew must have discovered quite a stash back there. I hope someone was able use those beads.